“Discovering characters like Erol and Andrew literally changed my life. They approached club music with an outsider’s mentality and a punk spirit. They shone a light on the electronic underground for me and continue to be big influences.”
Daniel Avery’s deft ability to stitch together the moodiest of minimal wave with tungsten-tough electronics makes him a natural choice for a music festival as he’s one of those rare DJs who manages to stimulate both the indie and the dancefloor quadrants of people’s brains. He’s the kind of artist who exemplifies Junction 2’s aim of meeting diverse expectations, so we’re thrilled to welcome him to The Warehouse on Friday night. Ahead of his appearance, we spoke about his origins, doing what you believe in and the little he remembers from his 2017 debut at Junction 2.
After a youth in what Avery calls the “glowing metropolis of Bournemouth”, like many provincial escapees before him, he found a lifeline through bands like Nirvana and Deftones; “Reading Festival was my holy weekend every year, running between tents with the most intricately crafted timetable Berkshire has ever seen.” But that was just the beginning of a psychedelic trip which pushed him towards his first DJ gig at his home town’s indie night Project Mayhem, and then onwards to London’s peaking underground electronic scene.
“The record shop I was working in closed its doors for the final time and I was faced with something of a chasm in front of me. The only way I was going to jump it was to get my head down and take music making more seriously than I had been, to make it more than a hobby.”
He had the good sense to pick his heroes wisely from the start; the likes of Erol Alkan and Andrew Weatherall becoming sonic shamans for the reconciliation of techno’s thump with the punkish attitudes of guitar music. “I wouldn’t be here without them […] I presumed clubbing was only for fearlords in loafers. Discovering characters like Erol and Andrew literally changed my life. They approached club music with an outsider’s mentality and a punk spirit. They shone a light on the electronic underground for me and continue to be big influences.”
After moving to London and picking up DJ gigs and production work, the point came when he had to double down on “a complete lack of money, resources and studio”, and turn his passion into something sustainable. “The record shop I was working in closed its doors for the final time and I was faced with something of a chasm in front of me. The only way I was going to jump it was to get my head down and take music making more seriously than I had been, to make it more than a hobby. I would borrow every space I could, every piece of equipment and work frantic days. The time pressure became a big part of the sound. I think you can hear that urgency on the early music and throughout Drone Logic.”
“The only thing you can ever do is make music that is true to yourself otherwise you’re a mark. Records will last forever and good ones seep into the lives of others. Their influence will be standing long after today’s edgy Twitter opinions and think pieces have disintegrated.”
Like the sonic forefathers he found in the likes of Weatherall, Richard Fearless and Ivan Smagghe, Daniel now produces music that’s rooted on the dancefloor but which ventures into the outlander territories of the decayed post-punk city. Across two artist albums (both released by Erol Alkan on Phantasy), two celebrated DJ mixes for fabric and K7, along with scores of tracks and remixes featuring luminaries like Justin Robertson, Roman Flügel and Rødhåd, he’s developed a style that’s equal parts bleepy LFO techno and My Bloody Valentine. It’s a diverse but coherent sound, and it’s one which he’s taken into a space all of his own.
As part of mining this particular strain of the musical spectrum for himself, Avery is ok with being an outlier. “It’s good to surround yourself with interesting people but I’ve never felt part of a scene. The only thing you can ever do is make music that is true to yourself otherwise you’re a mark. Records will last forever and good ones seep into the lives of others. Their influence will be standing long after today’s edgy Twitter opinions and think pieces have disintegrated.”
Regardless of whether or not it’s as part of any dominant city scene, Daniel remains buoyant about the state of dance music in London in 2019. “All I can say is that I love playing in London now more than ever. There’s a level of excitement in the air within the city and a constant stream of the best artists in the world coming through.” When asked about who he’s excited to see at Junction 2, he confesses, “Yeah a lot. Ricardo, Peach, rRoxymore, re:ni”. He’s also in particular luck because three of his choices, Objekt, Batu and DJ Stingray, will all be joining him within the stripped down techno haven of The Warehouse stage on Friday.
Those dancers who venture into the dark with him can expect to find a selector more interested in creating a shared experience than in satisfying conventions or expectations. “I don’t really think in those terms. I just play records that feel exciting to me. Music to lift your heart and invade your soul.” But it’s also music where, “there’s no space for wasted motion. Everything has to connect”, music that can be spare and lean while also remaining thoroughly directed towards the end goal of making people dance.
“I remember it being really fucking loud, in a good and totally surprising way for a London festival.”
Asked about his previous experience of playing at Junction 2 in 2017, his memories are cloudy but promising for any first-time visitors with a love for the sound. “I remember it being really fucking loud, in a good and totally surprising way for a London festival. But I got given a bottle of Jagermeister with my name engraved on it so other memories are less readily available.” This kind of admission is typical of a character who’s unafraid to speak his mind and to retain his character against the demands of a publicity machine that demands public figures be increasingly sanitised and self-censoring to appeal to the widest possible Instagram demographic.
Like the figures he ended up relating to most in his musical ascent, he’s a singular personality. On a dancefloor flush with loose-laced combat boots he’s a pair of battered Comme des Garçons x Chuck Taylor High Tops; characterful, unconcerned by boundaries, a maker of articulate statements. It turns out that footwear is an apt metaphor for a man who wants visitors to his Junction 2 set to go away thinking “’that bloke with the good shoes sure knows his way around a reverb pedal’.”
Daniel Avery plays The Warehouse at Junction 2 on Friday 7th June.
Words: Stephen Connolly